The Fat Lady is Warming Up

It is now mid November. Apparently though, no one has gotten around to telling President Trump that the presidential election is over and done with and that he lost. While no one disputes his right to seek legal remedies for election irregularities, no one who has mastered third grade arithmetic thinks that there is even a remote chance that the outcome will change. The election is over. Biden won and Trump lost. It is as simple as that. 

Or ought to be. But it isn’t because Trump is busy resisting the outcome and claiming fraud. It is possible that Trump actually believes that the election was “stolen” despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. He has never lacked a ready supply of self pity. More likely, he is setting things up for some other purpose, like a future run, a TV show or to ward off a future prosecution. 

Trump’s post election behavior, which includes the unwarranted and vindictive firing of Defense Secretary Esper, perfectly demonstrates why he should never have been elected president in the first place. Regardless, despite all the hysteria, at noon on January 20, 2021 Joe Biden will take the oath of office and Donald Trump will no longer be president. Period. Because that’s what Section 1 of the 20th amendment to the Constitution says. “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January…” 

At that point all powers of the presidency will be vested in the person of Joe Biden. Whereupon Donald Trump can go pound sand and it won’t make the slightest difference to the functioning of the government. 

Perhaps fans of the “living Constitution” ought to think about that for a moment. Namely, that the Constitution actually means what the text clearly says it means. We could start with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which took it upon itself to rewrite Pennsylvania’s election laws on the fly despite the fact that the text clearly leaves that task to the legislature. 

In any event, the election is finally over. Now the intra-party bloodletting can begin in earnest. Meanwhile, in Washington it is a truism that personnel is policy. So we need to watch and see who emerges in the jockeying for position in the new administration. Bernie Sanders (Socialist, VT) is said to be campaigning hard to be Secretary of Labor. Let’s see if the supposedly moderate Mr. Biden gives the thumbs up for that. 

President elect Biden has made no secret of his admiration for Dr. Anthony Fauci, currently head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID). Just the other day Dr. Fauci was speaking at the Washington National Cathedral along with other pandemic experts. Here is what he had to say as reported by CNBC.

“I was talking with my U.K. colleagues who are saying the U.K. is similar to where we are now, because each of our countries have that independent spirit,” he said on stage. “I can understand that, but now is the time to do what you’re told.”

So now it appears that the true spirit of rule by experts is upon us. Get used to it, as Dr. Fauci might say. 

JFB

The Most Important Election…is a Victory for Gridlock

Every four years, right on schedule, we are told that “This election is the most important of your life.”  And of course, it isn’t. Just like the one we are in the process of finishing wasn’t. Not by a long shot. The probable result is best described as a much needed victory for gridlock. 

As of this writing it appears that the Republicans will keep their Senate majority, the Democrats will lose a few House seats and Vice President Biden may prevail with a small edge in the race for 270 Electoral College votes. But none of this is certain, and the final result will probably leave the losing side firmly convinced that “We wuz robbed.” 

Whether that sentiment is justified remains to be seen. But it is important to note that the distrust is both widespread and long standing. Part of the problem is extreme polarization. That polarization has been stoked by the major parties which increasingly resort to emotional appeals rather than facts or logic.  

Moreover, in addition to being an affront to the first amendment, campaign finance “reform” has left the major parties and their candidates  dependent on large outside donors who increasingly influence Party agendas. Think Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and Sheldon Addison.  That hasn’t helped any either. 

More importantly, the problem of distrust can be laid squarely at the feet of progressives who have spent the last 50 years or so attacking our governing institutions. In this they have been aided and abetted by (1) the mainstream press which is increasingly populated by woke “reporters” and (2) the public education system which has produced indoctrination factories but little learning.

When we are told on a daily basis that the U.S. is “systemically racist”; that the U.S. is “structurally racist”; that the police are in the business of hunting down black men to shoot; that the real founding of the U.S. was 1619 when African slaves were first brought to Jamestown, and that school curricula are being introduced based on that lie,  why would anyone be surprised by public distrust of our governing and culture shaping institutions? 

Why would anyone take the NY Times, MSNBC or CNN seriously when  their reporters insist on discussing peaceful demonstrations while anyone can see the buildings behind them are on fire? Why would anyone trust the Washington Post with its slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on its front page while it refuses to cover the Hunter Biden scandal, without doubt an important story. 

Why would anyone believe the rhetoric of big city mayors and civil rights organizations when it is clear that they are bought and paid for by the Teachers Unions. Those big city public schools have failed minority children for generations and yet big city Mayors and civil rights organizations like the NAACP have long fought school choice and charter schools even though the evidence is crystal clear that they produce superior outcomes. 

It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that what we have is a massive failure of government and governance. The failure is long standing and reaches into almost every area of American life. The affluent can afford this because it doesn’t affect them. But the average citizen can’t afford to pay $25,000 — to $50,000 a year to send their kids to private prep schools. Nor can the average citizen afford to pay for private security guards while activists insist on “defunding the police.” 

Elites can afford to move to their summer houses in the Hamptons while calling for lock-downs while they work from home and ride out the Covid-19 virus. But the people who work in grocery stores, drive trucks and deliver their packages can’t afford to be locked-down. Nor can minority children afford to fall further back by being forced to resort to Zoom classes for grammar school.  

When all is said and done, the election results represent a repudiation of the progressive elite. There will be no Green New Deal, Court Packing, defunding of police, elimination of the Senate’s legislative filibuster, Medicare for all, guaranteed outcomes, or dismantling of capitalism. That is all to the good. 

Now the two political parties will have a few years to re-think where they are and where they would like to go. If the Democrats get the joke (always a doubtful prospect) they will head back toward their roots, put identity politics to rest where it belongs and begin to develop a framework for policy based on equality of opportunity rather than outcome. Don’t hold your breath. 

The Republicans on the other hand are still going to be saddled with Trump partisans, with or without Trump. They are going to have to adapt conservatism (actually classical liberalism) to reform and strengthen, not eliminate, critical public institutions.  They could start by ending the bureaucratic command-and-control mentality of federal agencies. Voluntary action and devolution of power to local institutions should be the preferred route. Whether they will head in this direction is anybody’s guess. 

All in all the election results can be seen as gift allowing us to step back from the brink. If the two parties have any sense at all, they will develop sensible policy frameworks, engage in spirited substantive debate, defend free speech  against cancel culture, rein in the bureaucracy, go back to enacting laws and policies and stop the virtue signaling. 

That’s a tall order. We don’t have a lot of time to waste. 

JFB

Can Trump Win the 2020 Race?

To win, he has to pull an inside straight. With time running out, it’s not likely. But it is possible. 

The Biden campaign strategy has always been to focus the race on Trump’s personality and avoid policy. In this he has been mightily helped by Trump and his compulsive need to be the center of attention. But Trump has not helped himself here at all because his personality is so abrasive and off putting, to say the least. 

Further, the most important medium that presidents and candidates use to communicate with voters is television. When a political figure is on TV, it is like he has been invited into your living room. And Trump represents the grouchy, cantankerous guest who simply won’t leave. That behavior appalls coastal America. But when the medium is changed there is a different reaction.  In live appearances, his obnoxious behavior thrills the crowds that gather by the tens of thousands to see him. 

In contrast, Biden’s entire campaign message has consisted of declaring that he is not Donald Trump. The reason is not simply that Trump’s personality is so distasteful to so many, although it is an important factor. It is also because the hard left of his party is ascendant, and their policy agenda is unlikely to be popular with rank and file voters. So Biden’s strategy is to concentrate on personality, avoid policy, and run the clock out. That strategy allows the rank and file to believe that Biden is a moderate, while the left wing gets to own policy making after the election, particularly if the Democrats sweep the House and Senate. 

The election has always been tighter than the national polls suggest. Biden has maintained a consistent lead against Trump for going on a year. But so did Hillary Clinton. The main difference is that there exists a reservoir of fondness for Biden in a good part of the electorate while there was none for Hillary Clinton. Moreover, Trump has the Coronavirus hanging over him, which he didn’t have before. So the question is: How is it possible for Trump to come from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at this late stage?

It is possible because (1) there is lingering suspicion of Biden stemming from the 1994 crime bill, particularly among African-American males; (2) Biden made a significant unforced error on energy policy in the second debate, and (3) while there is hatred for Trump on the left, there is no enthusiasm for Biden. 

So how does this square with the polling that shows Biden with a national lead of around 8 to 9 points? It doesn’t. If Biden carries the popular vote with a margin of 8 or 9 percentage points it is virtually impossible for Trump to win. Actually it would be more indicative of a blue tidal wave in which Biden picks up 340 – 360 votes in the electoral college, well over the 270 needed to win. Add to that the probability of Democratic control of the House and Senate. 

On the other hand if Biden’s lead in the popular vote slips to 3 or 4 points, it is very possible that Trump could pull it out of the fire. That’s because the battleground state polls are much tighter than the national polls, with much wider margins of error. But for Trump to win the key battlegrounds and gain 270 electoral college votes, the polls have to wrong. What are the chances of that?

More than you’d think. That is because Biden has shown significant weakness, compared to the usual performance of a Democrat, among African-American voters, particularly males. In part it stems from Biden’s criminal justice record, which wound up exacting a heavy price on African-American males. A significant fall-off in the votes of African-American males could tip the margins in Michigan (14% African-American), Pennsylvania (11%), Minnesota (12%) and maybe Wisconsin (6%).  

Add to that Biden’s falling into the Energy v. Climate trap during Thursday’s debate. Politicians are prone to claim that costs are really benefits—because they get away with it. But you can only go so far claiming that there will be all these brand new “Green Jobs”, especially when you are looking for votes in a jurisdiction that produces lots of fossil fuel based energy, especially by fracking. When Biden denied he ever said he would ban fracking and then tried to pivot to “transitioning” to clean energy, fossil fuel industry voters in Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma and maybe Minnesota took notice. 

Pennsylvania is a critical state. Combine the impact of a lower than usual percentage of African-American Democratic votes in Philly and Pittsburg with motivated energy industry voters; and then factor in a net increase of Republican registrations on the order of of 125,000 voters and a Democratic decrease of 65,000 voters since 2016 and you have the formula for an upset. And it is wise to remember James Carville’s description of the state: In-between Pittsburg and Philadelphia lies Alabama. 

Then there is the factor of enthusiasm and its cousin, momentum. While there is a lot of enthusiasm for getting rid of Trump, there is little enthusiasm for Biden. That could make it difficult for the Biden campaign to motivate new voters and get existing registrants to the polls in sufficient numbers. That said, fear of Covid could be a factor motivating Biden voters to show up. 

Trump, on the other hand, still retains the loyalty and enthusiasm of his base. But he may be losing suburbanites, particularly suburban women who normally vote Republican. On that score Biden didn’t help himself any when he tried to explain away the corruption issue, news of which is only going to get worse in the next week. Nor did he do himself any favors among affluent and highly educated Republican suburbanites when he pretended that his tax plans would not affect them. 

The final question has to do with what pollsters refer to as “shy Trump voters”. That phrase refers to people who are actually in favor of Trump but hide it or lie about it to pollsters because of the chilling effect of cancel culture. It is possible that Trump could actually perform significantly better in the battleground states than the polls currently suggest. If we see the national polls tighten to where Biden is ahead by 3 to 4 points, Trump could possibly eke out a victory at the last minute the way he did in 2016. But if Biden maintains a lead in the 8 to 9 point range, it is virtually impossible. 

At the moment, I’d put the odds of a Trump victory at about 1 in 3. 

Let’s wait and see if the polls tighten over the next week.

JFB